I took the train home last night from Flatbush to the Upper West Side. It’s a ride that takes about an hour at the hour I was doing it (midnight), so I had ample time to enjoy my favorite subway activity—listening to podcasts. Fresh off of a recommendation from my friend Max, I was listening to the podcast Song Exploder, which I would highly recommend to anyone who engages in the creation of music (as well as any non-musicians who want a peek behind the musical curtain).

It‘s a podcast in which musical artists explain everything that went in to the creation of a particular song of theirs, from the emotions/experiences behind the lyrics, to the discovery of a cool riff, to the musicians who helped record it, to the idea behind the mix, and more. Its sometimes deeply personal, sometimes highly technical, and often very insightful.

I was particularly moved by the episode featuring the singer, songwriter, and producer Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier (aka Christine and the Queens), who talked about her 2018 song Doesn’t matter. On the surface, it just sounds like a slick, well produced, kind of tough, good pop song. But when you really listen to her lyrics and tone, you see that the song is brimming with existential despair. And when you listen to the podcast, you see that every musical choice she made was either directly or obliquely related to capturing this sense of desperation.

The end result is a beautiful catharsis. In the podcast she describes catharsis not as something that feels good when you’re doing it, but as just a natural and necessary release. This song allowed her to feel and express her emotions in a direct way, free from over-analysis or shame.

This week, in the course of writing my song, I too tried to capture a more direct and emotional relationship with the sounds I was creating. I spend so much time in front of a computer screen manipulating the minutiae of the sounds, that I can sometimes forget the fact that for essentially all of the 200,000 years of human existence, music only existed in our minds, hearts, bodies, and instruments. If you wanted to make music, you had to get off your ass and make it happen live!

I realized this week that I’ve been missing the “get off your ass” portion of the music making process as of late. As a cure, I spent a lot more time in the recording booth with this song than I did with last week’s song. I’m not saying that this makes this a better song, but I will say that it was a lot more satisfying to create.

Sitting in front of the computer screen with Logic Pro X pulled up can sometimes give you the illusion that your music can and should be “perfect.” But here’s a secret—most people don’t want to hear perfect—they want to hear real. And more importantly, it is just way more fun and satisfying to record a wacky vocal line than it is to digitally iron out all the warts and wrinkles in your song.

I was improvising some spoken words to this song, and while I ultimately ended up scrapping all of them, I did discover a line that I think sums up the spirit of this song, and something I need to remind myself from time to time:

You’ve got to find a way to be an animal.

That is to say, I sometimes practice the very “human” art of overthinking things. I’d be better served by just moving my body and making some noise.

Speaking of noise, here’s my song.

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Well, I live in New York now. So far I’ve spent most of my time lazing in Central Park, exploring the NYU campus in Greenwich Village, or piecing together my tiny bedroom in my Upper West Side apartment (pictured above). All summer I’ve been excited about this move and proud of myself for taking this leap, but I confess I didn’t (and still don’t) know what I was getting myself into. I suppose a naive part of me expected that I would arrive and immediately begin walking down a clearly paved road to musical success. In reality, I’ve just been trying to figure out how to properly feed, clothe, shelter, and transport myself in this enormous city. I’ve been here for just over a week, and every day I oscillate between being a giddy tourist and a homesick child. I walk around stupefied by the iconic streets full of hip beautiful people, I constantly screw up on the subway, and I miss my family and friends to the point of tears.

And still, I’m so happy to be here. I know that eventually I am going to figure out the subway, I’ll learn where/when to go to the grocery store, I’ll make great new friends, and I’ll start to feel like my tiny closet of a bedroom is a cozy home. Many of my now effortful actions will change into natural routines. What will not change is the fact that I am living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, surrounded by rich culture and a talented, driven, diverse population. I have every resource I could hope for to help me fulfill my dream of musical success: world renowned instructors, innumerable venues, plenty of talented collaborators, and a potentially vast audience of music fans. I have a sense that if I am not successful here, it will be my own fault. This city is full opportunities for me and I believe that I’m going to be rewarded if I only work hard and consistently choose to step out of my comfort zone. Frankly, my dream is to write, record, and perform music all over the world, and I think I’m in the best possible place to make that dream a reality.

This is where you come in precious reader. I’m going to document my musical life and thoughts once a week in this blog, and I need you and everyone else to read it. Sure I could try to hold myself accountable to my goals on my own, but I’d likely end up frequently binge watching any of the brilliant shows available in this golden age of television instead. I wish I were entirely self-motivated, but the fact is, if I know I have an audience, I’m going to try a lot harder. In exchange for your readership, I’ll offer you delightfully useless observations (e.g. New Yorkers won’t make eye contact with you until they are slowly rolling out of your life forever on a subway car— and then it’s nothing but blazing eye contact), as well as priceless nuggets of wisdom (sometimes). You’ll also have a candid look at my life as I rise from Lucas Murray levels of obscurity to Kanye West levels of international superstardom and egotistical delusion.

Finally, I’m going to cap off each weekly blog post with a playlist. I’ve adopted the city-wide habit of walking around with my headphones in— I put all of my music on shuffle, and am consistently delighted by the synchronicity of the random song I’m listening to and my outside environment. Thus, the songs that I’ll include in each playlist are the songs that were most significant or enjoyable to me that week as I roamed the city. And like New York itself, this playlist is going to be diverse, including both old and new songs from a variety of styles. You can find each playlist at the bottom of my blog posts, or follow me on Spotify and find the weekly playlists there if you’re interested in hearing the songs but don’t want to read the blog (you lazy so and so), or if you you like, I can even burn it on to a CD and mail it to you because I’m cool like that (just shoot me an email).

So if you believe in me like I believe in me, please follow this blog, share it with your friends, family, and rich patrons, and don’t be afraid to contact me with any questions, comments, or words of encouragement. Also, if you don’t believe in me or just plain dislike me, please follow this blog, diss me often in the comments section, and judge me as I shamelessly try to pursue my foolish dream of musical success. Whether friend or foe, WordPress user or not, if you would, please go push that follow button at the top right of this post, drop me your email, and then tune in each week for a new post. Thank you!

And here is this week’s playlist: